The Face by R.S. Thomas

When I close my eyes, I can see it,

That bare hill with the man ploughing,

Corrugating that brown roof

Under a hard sky. Under him is the farm,

Anchored in its grass harbour;

And below that the valley

Sheltering its few folk,

With the school and the inn and the church,

The beginning, middle and end

Of their slow journey above ground.


He is never absent, but like a slave

Answers to the mind’s bidding,

Endlessly ploughing, as though autumn

Were the one season he knew.

Sometimes he pauses to look down

To the grey farmhouse, but no signals

Cheer him; there is no applause

For his long wrestling with the angel

Of no name. I can see his eye

That expects nothing, that has the rain’s

Colourlessness. His hands are broken

But not his spirit. He is like bark

Weathering on the tree of his kind.


He will go on; that muh is certain.

Beneath him tenancies of the fields

Will change; machinery turn

All to noise. But on the walls

Of the mind’s gallery that face

With the hills framing it will hang

Unglorified, but stern like the soil.


by R.S. Thomas

from Pieta (1966)